Explainer posts and “Top XX Reasons Why” posts are rooted in the notion that we want more than the 5w’s lede. Consumers desire more than the “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nut_graph.”
And with the popularity of sites like Five Thirty Eight and Upworthy, it’s worthy studying a bit…
Try this: Make a list with two simple columns. On the left, write Who, What, When, and Where. On the right column, write How and Why. Then, go to any news site — local, national, or global — or even to a print newspaper and see which questions the stories you see answer.
At most news sites, the hashmarks will fill up quickly in the left column — slowly, if at all, in the right one. That’s the column for explanatory journalism — the new craze of the past year, but built on ideas as old as good journalism itself.
Explainer journalism derives from knowledge — and from ignorance. “Our authority comes from knowing what we do and don’t know,” Leonhardt says. It also lets readers know “we’re trying to think it through.”
Explainer journalism assumes a certain curiosity and appetite among intelligent readers — and that alone is worth understanding.